Have you ever stopped to wonder why you do some things in a specific order? Like putting your socks on before your shirt, placing the towel a certain way after a bath and so on?
We all do things like that. We all have done our share of trial and error, and it’s the basic method of learning anything.
It’s the same kind of logic that exists in the way computers think, and it’s called sequentiality.
It’s why a robot knows how to place parts exactly right every time, and it’s why you put your left shoe on before your right. It’s programmed into your core through many sessions of trying things one way, then another so that you, in the end, have found a suitable pattern that seems functional.
You never quit because you can’t quit life. Or, you can but not if you want to continue learning and living.
Making choices based on previous experiences and trying to perfect them is what we do.
It’s a base setting of human beings that we want to try, and we want to succeed in what we do. Whenever we meet challenges or obstacles, we have a choice. Do we overcome it and move past it, having learned something, or do we stop in our tracks and stop evolving? The way we learn is to do things, fail or succeed, retry and so forth. We usually get experience from our attempts, and that’s what sequentiality and learning are. Making choices based on previous experiences and trying to perfect them is what we do. That’s why most kids are easier to potty train when they get tired of feeling cold and wet. And yet, this seems to be a universal strategy in so many adult matters, so there must be some sort of pay-off for us, but more on that later.
Back to doing and learning.
(Re)programming our kids and thus the world
So, why do I want you to know this? Well, because we live in a world where sequential thinking is one of the things that schools and scholars alike want your kids to use.
Not in the sense that they want to teach your kid which arm to put in the jacket first, why it’s best to each soup with a spoon and so on, but in the sense that they want him or her to change the world’s sequential thinking.
They want the kids to be able to reprogram the world to the kids’ liking, which by itself is an awesome idea! Our children are the future, and I don’t think there exists a parent who doesn’t want their offspring to set its mark on the world.
It’s all part of the digital literacy movement, and especially the act of sequential thinking better known as coding is being praised to high heaven by anyone who has a voice in the scholarly debates. Around the world, the mantra seems to be that teaching kids to code will save the world and thereby the future. Yay!
I’m inclined to agree but… and there is a big one. Only, if we put the coding in perspective with the rest of the curriculum that we teach kids in the educational system and beyond.
Only, if we teach the kids to see things as linked, and not as individual pillars of truth.
But if we are teaching code to the kids just because it’s fashionable and part of the 21st Century Learning skills (blah blah and other buzzwords), then it’s just another fab that will end up collecting dust in a corner.
It’s human nature to state things as ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth,’ but if there’s one thing that life as an educator of children have taught me, it’s that there is never only one truth. There’s lines of events, opinions, and strategies that, when collected and used in collaboration, becomes something greater than the individual. It becomes a sequence that can inspire changes instead of cementing some singular truth. But, oh how we love ‘THE truth.’ It makes it so much easier to make decisions for everyone else, but it also stunts growth. So what do we want? I guess it depends on who you’re asking. Betting on a single horse does make it more affordable to make bets, but the chance of success are very limited. And the way some people praise coding makes me scared, that they are putting all their money on just this one thing. I’ve seen it before, and it never ends well for the one’s teaching or being taught.
For years I watched the Danish School system throw digital and technical solutions at the teachers, with little more effect than peeing in your pants to keep you warm.
But back to the coding.
If we teach kids how to create with code, pass it on and use it in a creative and non-linear way, then coding is amazing! It’s building blocks for the present and structures for the future.
But if we are teaching code to the kids just because it’s fashionable and part of the 21st Century Learning skills (blah blah and other buzzwords), then it’s just another fab that will end up collecting dust in a corner. As much as it pains me to say so, I have seen it done wrong so many times.
If coding, and therefore sequential thinking, is to be a major player in all kids futures, then we have to start using the basic sentence of coding: If, then that. We have to start thinking outside the box and stop trying to shove content into the existing boxes.
People love boxes
But some people still love ‘THE boxes.’
For years I watched the Danish School system throw digital and technical solutions at the teachers, with little more effect than peeing in your pants to keep you warm. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the aftermath wasn’t quite thought through to the end.
Someone in the government or on an advisory board had told someone else, that Denmark needed to become more digital and therefore needed to upgrade the infrastructure. By all means, lets! The problem was that nobody thought of an easy and out-of-box solution that made sense outside in the real world. They wanted to have something on a piece of paper that showed, that they were making progress, that they were helping the Danish school system into the 21st-century. So they started doing the ‘peeing-in-pants’ and dragged everyone down with them.
First, they wanted all the teachers to use smart boards and projector based systems. Yeah, great! If only the equipment had been supported by extensive education of the teachers and other (un)fortunate recipients, but no.
Like with so many other ‘solutions’ before it, nobody planned the implementation with the teachers but merely threw another burden on them.
It’s only a few months ago that I met with a teacher who pulled me down to the school’s tech service room to see the conditions it was in.
In other words, the politicians thought it would be an excellent idea to starting expanding the educational systems with the same methods the Italians build Venice with — on poles that would sink slowly but surely. Instead of a competent and confident teacher with new skills and platforms, we got frustrated, overworked ones with glorified film projectors in the classrooms. The kids were ecstatic! They could now watch movies on screens bigger than their TV’s at home while in school. Beats looking at old 19″ boxes from 10 feet away.
Learning and doing better? Or still peeing in pants
So you might think that the politicians have stopped in their tracks and thought of new and better ways to implement new tech, after finding out they accidentally upgraded the classrooms to movie theaters? Guess again. They didn’t look back and just kept on going, piling the responsibility on the local school board or educational advisers.
A few teachers got some additional training and were now the primary source of knowledge and support for the ‘progress.’ Because piling up stuff meant for ten people on one person is always a good and functional solution, right? To make things even ‘better,’ the training of these practitioners often ends up in the hands of scholars with little or no hands-on experience. The ‘chosen ones’ ends up spending an entire day looking at power points and doing group debates. I’ve been in the audience of such a seminar many a time, and being talked at doesn’t help anyone practice better.
Why? Because no one taught them the right sequence to do things in, in the time frame they have between classes!
That’s one of the reasons why I started teaching my colleagues because the frustration was simply too much.
I’m definitely not the only one getting frustrated.
It’s only a few months ago that I met with a teacher who pulled me down to the school’s tech service room to see the conditions it was in. I had only been in the classroom about 5 minutes when the teacher announced that I had to see the tech service office and that I should take pictures. So off I went and what I saw was best described as a tech dump.